An Apple (Pie) a Day..

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Apple Pie is an iconic American dessert.  And in my family, it was a regular.  I have quite a few childhood memories that include making and eating apple pie with my family. It was always around for holidays, made every year for my Dad’s birthday [because it was his favorite], and was enjoyed after most Sunday night dinners.  

Making the pies, at least when I was younger, was a family affair.  I remember my Dad sitting at our kitchen table running apples through a hand-cranked apple peeler and watching the thin strips of skin drop to the floor.  These were my apple strings were favorite part, I always loved eating the long ropes of apple skin while watching him crank away.

While Dad was peeling the apples, my Mom would begin making the homemade pie crust using her Mom’s recipe [obviously, because in our family, we just don’t do store-bought pie crust].  I remember her carefully rolling out the dough so it wouldn’t tear and crimping it perfectly around the edge of the pie pan, creating perfect edges with ease.  Once the apples were peeled and cut, she’d mix the apples in with the sugar and cinnamon and pile them high into the crust, neatly topping everything with a buttery-rich crumb topping.  In our family, crumb topping was the only way to enjoy apple pie.  Not only did you NOT have to roll out two pie crusts but you got that extra crunch & warmth from the topping that made eating apple pie that much more comforting.

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My mom would bake the apple pie an hour or so before dinner so by the time our meal was complete, we’d be able to enjoy warm apple pie – which is the only way an apple pie should be enjoyed, warm & fresh out of the oven.  In fact, my Aunt Val didn’t even realize apple pie was served cold until she was in her 20’s.  Some may say she was considered spoiled but I’d save she was privileges for never having to eat cold apple pie [yuck!]

Most people love enjoying a slice of apple pie topped with vanilla ice cream, and in my family, we enjoyed that once in a while but our standard was to accompany apple pie was with a few slices of sharp cheddar cheese on the side.  It might sound strange, maybe even a bit “Polak” but apples & cheese are a common pair and the creaminess of the cheese and its slight bite paired perfectly with the sweet-tartness of the apple pie.  My Grandma Hellert would be the to initially make the cheese request and at times, she’d simply show up with blocks of cheese whenever she knew apple pie was on the menu.

Although I have fond memories of apple pie from my childhood, my current apple pie indulgence is limited to visits home or in this past Christmas’ instance, my Mom’s visit to Austin. And honestly, I’m fine indulging in it every few years but in between these homemade treats, I still enjoy the flavors of apple pie by mixing up an Apple Pie Protein Smoothie – the healthified apple pie!

This smoothie recipe is something I came up with years later, after first enjoying an Apple Pie Milkshake during my 3rd grade class’ Apple Day celebration.  The original recipe had applesauce, cinnamon, milk, and of course, ice cream.  Mine on the other hand has fresh apples & applesauce, spices, almond milk & vanilla protein powder. It’s a slimmed down version of the milkshake but still delivers all the flavors of Mom’s apple pie without the fat, calories, and post-indulgence guilt.  It’s great for breakfast, a mid-afternoon snack or even a late night dessert!

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Apple Pie Protein Smoothie
Makes 1 smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup almond milk, vanilla or original [I use unsweetened]
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 apple finely diced* [I prefer Fuji or Empire but I’ve also used Granny Smith for some extra tartness]
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground clove
  • 1/2 scoop vanilla protein powder [I use about 40 grams]
  • 6-8 ice cubes

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Directions:
Place everything in the blender beginning with the top of the ingredient list and working you way down.

Add additional ice cubes as needed to acquire your desired thickness.
Pour into a glass, sprinkle with cinnamon & enjoy!

*Note: Sometimes, I only add half of the apple to the smoothie and choose to stir in the rest to the smoothie after blending. Obviously, you can’t drink the smoothie but I enjoy eating it with a spoon, kind of like a soup smoothie!

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This smoothie requires a spoon!

Mom’s Choclate Chip Cookies

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Some recipes aren’t meant to be healthified.
In fact, healthifying them might actually be WRONG.

Case in fact – my mom’s chocolate chip cookie recipe.  I’ve learned this from experience.  When you want your mother’s chocolate chip cookies, you aren’t truly craving cookies – you’re craving comfort.  And healthifying the recipe will only leave you unsatisfied and still in need of comfort.

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My mom’s chocolate chip cookies are my comfort food.  I specifically remember a time in college when I came home one weekend, devastated and upset by an event that happened [something that I look back on now as trivial but at the time viewed as detrimental].  When I arrived home that morning, my mom was in the kitche20140221_135843n baking chocolate chip cookies.  I sat at the kitchen table with a glass of milk, ate those cookies, and cried while I talked to my mom about what was bothering me. And afterwards, I felt better.  Yes, sharing my thoughts with my mom while eating her warm, fresh out of the oven chocolate chip cookies, made me feel better.

It’s often stated that you shouldn’t comfort yourself or hide your feelings with food – but there’s always an exception.  And in this case, my mom’s chocolate chips cookies are love in a physical form. They are comfort and they make people feel better.  So when I need some comforting and am miles away from my mom but yearning for her comfort and a hug – her cookies are the closest I get to feeling that embrace.

I’ve also learned that in order for them to truly be comforting, I need to be made using the exact same brands of ingredients she uses.  Using an alternative will not deliver the same taste, love, or comfort.

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So, here’s my mom’s chocolate chip cookie recipe – with the exact brands you need to make them to feel my mom’s comforting, loving hug via chocolate chip cookies.

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Mom Hellert’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 1/2 cup Butter Flavored Crisco
  • 1/2 cup Land O’Lakes Unsalted Butter
  • 1 cup Domino Granulated Sugar
  • 1/2 cup Domino Light Brown Sugar
  • 2 eggs [white eggs please...] 
  • 1 tsp McCormick Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 2 1/2 cups Gold Medal All-Purpose Flour, sifted
  • 1 tsp Arm & Hammer Baking Soda
  • 1 tsp salt [table salt, none of that fancy sea stuff]
  • 2 cups Nestle Semi Sweet Morsels*

 

Directions: 
Preheat oven to 375*

In a stand mixer, cream together crisco, butter, sugars, and vanilla until light & fluffy.
Beat in eggs. In a separate bowl, sift together flower, baking soda, and salt.
Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture [in 2 - 3 batches].
Fold in chocolate chips.

Place tablespoon-sized mounds on a cookie sheet and bake for 10-11 minutes or until lightly golden in color. [It's best to rotate the sheet half way through baking to ensure cookies are evenly browned.]

Let cookies cool slightly on tray.  They’re best eaten warm, minutes out of the oven!

*Note: My mom actually used 1 cup Nestle Semi Sweet Morsels and 1 cup Nestle Semi Sweet & Premier White Chocolate Morsels but these are often difficult to find.  An adequate replacement would be to sub a 1/2 cup of Nestle Premier White Chocolate Morsels for a portion of the semi sweet.

*Note: My mom would also, sometimes, add in chopped walnuts.  If you like nuts in your chocolate chip cookies, add in a 1/2 cup chopped walnuts when folding in the chocolate chips.

Cooking for the Family

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So I’ve been gone for a few weeks but as I mentioned earlier, it’s because I was in India getting married – no big deal.

We had a great wedding, my parents thoroughly enjoyed all the Indian wedding traditions, we were able to visit with some of my new Arora family members, and were even swept away for a mini honeymoon to Udaipur – where we got to ride a camel and relax a bit, just the two of us, before heading back to the States!

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Ramu the Camel

In India, after the marriage, it’s tradition for the new wife to cook for her husband’s family for the first time.  Which isn’t a problem, because obviously, I love to cook! But prior to our travels, <3M had mentioned to his family that I had made a healthified version of Dal Makhni and THIS was the meal they requested me to make. It doesn’t sound like that big of a deal but I had only made it once before…in the States…using a crockpot…with proper measuring tools.

My first time making healthified Dal Makhni, <3M doubted my ability to make the traditional, creamy dish – as Dal Makhni translates to Butter Lentils.  He even refused to call it Dal Makhni when I told him I was making it, saying lets just call it “dal” [aka lentils] so I didn’t set false expectations.

M<3 was skeptical because to him, Dal Makhni is a signature dish. It’s the dish that he judges all Indian restaurants on. He believes that the quality of a restaurant’s Dal resonates to the quality of the restaurant overall.  So for him – Dal Makhni is a BIG DEAL.

So when he tasted my healthier version of Dal Makhni, he [and our friend Punit who also came to judge] were pleasently surprised to find that I did in fact make a traditional Dal Makhni – maintaining its authentic buttery and creamy flavor without all the actual butter and cream.  To them, that night, I was a food hero – making them homemade Dal Makhni – the same Dal which they recalled eating at home in India.

So really, making my healthier Dal Makhni is truly no big deal but having to make it in India WAS a big deal.  Not only was I cooking in a kitchen I wasn’t quite used to,  I’d be making this meal without measuring tools, hoping the ingredients in America translate to the same thing in India, cooking it on a stovetop rather than a crockpot, and on top of everything else – when we arrived, I found out that the family had a professional chef cooking for them that week to lessen the household chores.

This was just the icing on the cake – not only was I cooking for the family for the first time but I had to do it in front of a professional chef who would undoubtedly be watching me and judging my Indian cooking skills with skepticism.

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The Professional Chef

In my family, my Mother, Grandmothers, and Aunts are all wonderful cooks.  Cooking is our thing. It’s how we show our love to the people close to us.  It’s how we show we’re the caretakers.  To me, cooking a wonderful dish for <3M’s family for the first time was significant.  It was proof to them that I’d take care of him forever and always, and that he’d be well fed and forever loved.  Because as I mentioned, to me, in my family, Food = Love.

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Since failure was not an option, I prepared for my cooking adventure prior to packing for India – by ensuring I packed two basic measuring tools that I knew could get me through cooking for the family the first time. My tools of choice were a measuring cup – a bright orange, Tupperware quarter cup and a stainless steel measuring spoon – the 1 teaspoon to be exact [both belonged to my Grandma Greene - so I was stacking the the deck by bringing good cooking ju-ju with me]!  With these two tools, my knowledge of cooking, and by writing a detailed grocery list, I set out to cook Healthified Dal Makhni for the family!

And it was a success [or at least they told me it was!].

Everyone said they loved it, the professional chef even signed off on my Dal Makhni, complimenting me saying even home cooks and Indian chefs have trouble making an authentic Dal Makhni the way I did.

So here it is, here’s healthified Dal Makhni [the crockpot version].  It has the same creamy, buttery, rich, savory flavors as traditional Dal Makhni but with less than a quarter of the fat and calories of the original [I ran the nutritionals!]. It’s the perfect comfort food served atop some rice [I prefer brown]!

Crockpot Dal Makhni
Serves: 4-6

Ingredients

■ 2 cup urad saboot [black lentils]
■ 15 oz red kidney beans [I used canned]
■ 2 tbsp butter
■ 1½ tsp salt
■ 3 cups vegetable broth [or water]
■ 1 cup tomato puree [2 large tomatoes, roasted & pureed or used canned]
■ 3/4 tsp nutmeg powder
■ 1/2tsp garam masala
■ 3 tsp roasted cumin powder
■ 4 tbsp kasoori methi [dried fenugreek leaves]
■ 1 tsp ground fenugreek powder
■ ½ tsp red chile powder
■ 1 ½ tsp aamchoor powder
■ 1 tsp kati salt [black salt]
■ 2 ½ tsp ground coriander
■ ½ tsp cinnamon

Grind to a Paste

■ 2 dry, whole red chile
■ 1 tbsp ginger
■ 4 medium to large cloves garlic

To Add Later

■ 1/3 cup fat free half and half
■ 2-3 tbsp more unsalted butter

Make the tomato puree:
If roasting your own tomatoes, pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.  Place tomatoes upside down on a baking sheet and score and “x” on the bottom of both.  Roast in the oven for 30-40 minutes.  Let cool, peel away skin, and puree until smooth.

Par-cook the lentils:
Bring water to boil. Add lentils and boil 10 minutes. Turn off heat and let sit for roughly 30 minutes. Drain lentils & set aside.

Prep the chile-garlic-ginger paste:
Make the chile-garlic-ginger paste by grinding together with a mortar & pestle.  Set aside.

Once everything is prepped, the crockpot comes in to play to do the remaining work:
Add the par-cooked lentils & 3 cups vegetable broth [or water] to crockpot with first 2 tbsp butter, and the chile-garlic-ginger paste. Add in spices [salt, nutmeg, garam masala, cumin,fenugreek leaves & powder, chile powder, aamchoor powder, kati salt, coriander & cinnamon] and tomato puree.

Let everything cook on high for 4 hours [or on low for 6-8 hours]. Before serving, add red kidney beans, half & half and additional butter. If you like your dal a little less thick, stir in an additional ½ to 1 cup vegetable broth [or water]. Let cook another 20-30 minutes before serving.

Serve over rice & garnish with cilantro and a cool size of yogurt.

Adapted from: http://www.novicehousewife.com/2013/10/22/garam-
masala-tuesdays-slow-cooker-dal-makhani/

I’m getting married in a week

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Did you know I’ll be married in a week?

Well, not legally – not filing for taxes together legally – but married in at least one half the world.

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We’ve been referring to these upcoming nuptials as “being married in the Eastern hemisphere.” And we’re constantly being asked how we’ll respond afterwards, when asked if we’re married, if we’ll refer to one another as husband and wife, if he’ll wear a ring back in the States, which anniversary we’ll  celebrate, etc?

The real answer isn’t I don’t know.

 
I’m pretty sure we’ll do whatever feels right or maybe the Eastern hemisphere joke will be carried out until the wedding in Austin – which is exactly 210 days after the wedding in India.

It’s strange – we never really had to talk about whether or not we should have two weddings or one. We both just knew we were going to have two weddings.  Because honestly, both <3M and I have different ideas of  “tying the knot.”

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To him, getting married meant a week of traditions and rituals, festive activities, grand attire, joyous music, dancing, and hundreds of people.

My idea included a white dress, a walk down the isle with my dad, cake cutting, sharing the experience with a handful of  people, and a day of romance.

 

Both drastically different yet each completely traditional.

And I love it.

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I love that we’re honoring both our cultures.  I love that we get to share this event with friends & family across the globe – not forcing them to choose whether or not they should make the 2000 mile journey one way or another to attend a single event   I love that they get to see our love and I’m looking forward to sharing the experience with them in India or Austin as <3M & I begin a new chapter of our life.

For us, two weddings means twice the opportunity to celebrate our love.  For us, it’s our normal.

Channa Masala – India’s Gateway Cuisine

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I believe Channa Masala [also known as Chole] is the gateway dish to Indian cuisine.  It’s the starter curry for those skeptical of venturing into this “exotic” Indian cuisine.

Channa Masala is the gateway curry because it uses a familiar bean, garbanzo beans [found on most salad bars across the States], it tends to be mild in spice, and has a warm cozy feel to it when eaten, similar to the way chicken noodle soup makes most people feel loved and comforted as a child.

[Please excuse the unappetizing channa masala photos but Indian food is rather difficult to photograph and my photography skills are still a work-in-progress. If you want to see beautiful channa masala photos, take a look here.]

I love channa masala for all of the above reasons but I also enjoy it because it has a subtle hint of cinnamon and clove that enhances the overall flavor of the dish.  It elevates the coziness, creates depth, and if you are unfamiliar with Indian food, it leaves you wondering “What is that?”  The flavor is so familiar yet hard to pinpoint as cinnamon and clove, since their unexpected in such a savory dish.

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In grad school, my friend Puja originally taught me how to make channa masala.  I loved her version but it was never quite the same as when I experienced channa in a restaurant – there was always something missing that I couldn’t quite pin down.  After investigating channa masala recipes online, I learned that the missing flavor was the cinnamon-clove combination!

Traveling to India this past Fall, I experienced “real” channa masala, made at home by my soon to be Mami [M<3's Mother's sister-in-law aka: my Aunt in-law].  Before we arrived, M<3 raved about Mami’s cooking, declaring her one of the best cooks in his family and when I tasted her channa masala, I knew he was right.  Her channa had the comforting yet not over-powering cinnamon-clove taste I love with a hearty spiciness and a beautiful rich, brown color that made it appetizing even to the eyes.

Of course, before leaving India I requested the recipe and Mami sent me back to the States with the exact spices she used to make her channa and instructions on how to recreate the recipe at home. Mami has more of a “cook by taste” approach and this was the recipe I was given:

Boil channa two katories by putting a little salt garam masala and oil
Heat oil on pan, put ginger garlic paste roast then put one fourth spoon kala salt,one fourth spoon amchoor powder,one fourth spoon anrdana half spoon channa powder two spoons tomato purée roast and add boiled channa with a little water simmer for five minutes and ready for serving

Reading the recipe 10 times over, I was left more and more confused each time – what’s a katori; when she says spoon does that mean table, tea, soup or a regular ol’ spoon? I knew her recipe used dried beans but how long was I to boil them?  I’ve never heard of boiling dry beans with oil.  How much oil do I use?  What was the measurement for garlic and ginger?

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Obviously, this was not quite the recipe I was expecting in order to recreate the wonderful, rich channa masala I had experienced at Mami’s house.  After some more Google searching to understand what a “katori” measurement was [it's a bowl used for sambar FYI] I was able to take my current channa masala knowledge and it’s basic taste profiles to recreate Mami’s recipe in more specific measurements and developed what I consider to be an authentic, spicy channa masala. [It's been <3M and Punit approved as well!]

Below is my version on Channa Masala – it’s a recipe I know I will make over and over again – savoring the warm cozy feelings this dish brings and thinking back to the first tasted Mami’s channa during my first trip to India.

Channa Masala

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large cloves of garlic [or 1 heaping tablespoon of garlic paste]
  • 1 heaping tablespoon ginger paste
  • 3/4 cup red onion, finely diced [about 1 medium onion]
  • 1 large tomato, pureed [about 1 cup, puree raw tomato in a food processor]
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kala salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons amchoor powder [also known as mango powder]
  • 1 teaspoon anrdana powder*
  • 2 teaspoons channa powder*
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon clove
  • 3 cups cooked garbanzo beans**
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups water

Instructions

In a large pot, heat oil over medium-low heat.  Add in the garlic, ginger, and red onion.  Cook until the onions begin to sweat and are slightly translucent [about 5 minutes].

Add in the tomato puree and cook another 3-5 minutes, stirring as not to burn.  Add in all spices [kala salt, amchoor powder, anrdana powder*, channa powder*, cumin, cinnamon, & clove].  Allow these flavors for develop, cooking on medium-low for another 5 minutes, stirring as needed so the mixture doesn’t burn.

Add in the garbanzo beans and allow the beans to cook with the onion-tomato-spice mixture on medium-low for another 3-5 minutes, stirring as needed to keep the ingredients from burning.  At this time, add in the water [1 1/2 to 2 cups or until the beans are slightly covered].

After adding water, bring the curry to a boil, continuing the boil for up to 5 minutes.  Keep an eye on the pot so it doesn’t boil over.  Afterwards, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pot and allow the curry to thicken for at least 20 minutes.

Serve with rice, cilantro, and yogurt. [I prefer brown rice for an added fiber boost].

*Note:  If you can’t tolerate a lot of spice in your food, add in only 1/2 a teaspoon of anradana powder and 1 teaspoon of channa masala powder initially.  Before serving, taste the curry for spice level and adjust as needed – adding addition anradana and channa powder in 1/2 teaspoon increments.

**Note: I switch between using canned beans and cooking dried beans from scratch, depending on how much time I have or if I’ve planned ahead.  If using dry, be sure to prep the beans the morning of or night before.  Use 1 1/4 cups dry beans and follow these instructions - this should yield roughly 3 cups of cooked beans

Puppy Love on Valentine’s Day

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DogsI healthify a lot of recipes for M<3 and I but in our house, our pet[s] – depending on if we have a foster boxer that day or not – are our babies. Since we want them to be at the top of their health, I like to give them healthy, whole food treats that include some of their favorite eats!

When I say whole food treats, I mean food that isn’t processed or filled with chemicals to help “preserve freshness or flavor.”  Our pups don’t get table scraps, litterings of crackers, or stray pieces of cereal that have fallen to the floor.  Stella doesn’t eat “people food” and instead is treated with whole, unprocessed food – ensuring that she keeps a clean diet and maintains her health. <3M & I have also worked to keep Stella away from any wheat products as Boxers tend to do better on a wheat-free diet.

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When it comes to whole foods, Stella’s heart flutters for all things peanut butter, carrot, and banana.  You can find her sitting at my feet any time I’m making a salad [which is most days] or begging for a bite of my banana and lick peanut butter as I make oatmeal each morning.  


Since she 
is our princess, I decided to make her some special Valentine’s Day treats that include all her favorite foods – treats that I knew our other foster pup would enjoy as well!

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PEANUTTY CARROT PUPPY TREATS

  • 1 egg
  • 1 medium banana mashed
  • 1/3 cup natural peanut butter [remember, you're going for no added chemicals or processing]
  • 3/4 cup old fashioned oats, ground + 1/4 cup old fashioned oats, whole
  • 1/2 cup ground flax meal
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded carrots [I've also used carrot pulp from juicing in place of shredded carrots]

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper [trust me, this will make your life easier during clean-up]

In a food processor, grind 3/4 cup oats until it reaches a course grind and set aside.

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In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk together the banana, egg, and peanut butter. Add in ground oats, remaining whole oats, and ground flax seed.  Mix until thoroughly combined then fold in shredded carrots.

Using a small cookie scoop, scoop batter onto the parchment lined cookie sheets, flattening each into a small 1 1/2 inch disc. There won’t be much need to leave room between each flattened disc as these treats do not expand while baking.

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The treats are done when they are slightly pliable & light golden brown in colorOnce both baking sheets contain flattened treats, place both sheets in the oven [one on the top rack, one on the bottom] and bake for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, remove trays from ovens, flip each treat over and switch the top baking sheet to the bottom oven rack and the bottom sheet to the top oven rack.  Bake for an additional 30 minutes – checking at the 20 minute mark for browning.

 

The treats will harden more as they cool.  Be sure to cool the treats completely before sharing with your pups.

They can be stored at room temperature for up to a week or frozen for up to 3 months for later use.

Makes about 40 treats

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Crazy about Tacos

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Living in Austin, I no longer have to endure extreme cold weather.  Anything below 30 is considered extreme here, and we Austinites begin to curse Mother Nature if it lasts too long.  Sadly, this year, it’s lasted too long and this past month has been brutal with ice and below 30 temps. But even when Mother Nature’s cruel, she does treat us on the occasion with a warm, sunny weekend – giving us a little short burst of sunshine to remind us how wonderful the hot, Austin summers can be.

FishTacoToday was one of those days when Mother Nature gave Austin a little dose of warmth. It’s these days that I want to keep forever. I want to soak up every last bit of it and reminisce about the hot July & August to come.  The best way to bring summer back for the evening is by indulging in a summer classic – tacos.  Living in Austin, I eat a lot of tacos but fish tacos are by far my favorite.

And on a hot Austin evening, nothing taste better than fish tacos.

The only problem is, most fish tacos are fried, smothered with a creamy slaw and served with a side of lard-infested refried beans & white rice colored orange from paprika. Most tacos are then washed down with a heaping glass of frozen margarita.  Some how, this meal in concept seems so healthy because it’s fish, and fish is healthy, right?  Wrong.  It’s only healthy if you cook it properly and because fish tacos are fried and smother in creamy slaw this “healthy” fish taco just became a huge fat and calorie bomb.

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But it doesn’t have to be that way.  Fried fish and mayo-based coleslaw aren’t required for flavorful, crunchy fish tacos.  I have yet to find a classic fish taco here in Austin that meets my health standards. There’s plenty of salmon or ceviche or tuna tacos but these aren’t the traditional fish tacos I’m  looking for.  Unable to find that classic, healthier fish taco, I  created my own, healthified fish taco at home.

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My fish tacos use blackened seasoning for a smoky, spicy flavor and are paired with fresh ingredients like cilantro, lime, & jalapeño. I top them with a zesty chipotle slaw made with greek yogurt in place of mayo and a dollop of avocado creama!

Combined, these ingredients give the tacos a hit of fresh flavor, a ton of crunchy texture, and a touch of spice. Served on corn tortillas and rounded out with more slaw and a smokey, Mexican street corn salad on the side for added veggie power, this meal is perfect on a hot Austin night [or for that rare winter evening when Mother Nature teases us with hopes of summer].

Before reading the recipes, I have to say, it seems like a lot of components for one dinner but the truth is, with Mexican food, a lot of the same ingredients are carried over from one dish to another.  For timing’s sake – it’s best to prep all ingredients first [cilantro, jalapeño, lime, red onion & garlic] then begin making each of the components – beginning with the corn salad & coleslaw as these need at least 30 minutes to sit for their flavors to truly develop.

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Trust me, if you do the prep work ahead of time, assembling the meal afterwards really is a breeze – and well worth the effort!  These tacos can also be made with chicken if you aren’t a fish fanatic! Below’s the recipe I use when making the tacos for <3M [chicken] and I [fish].  There’s always plenty of leftovers the next day too, which go great atop a salad or stuffed again into some more corn tortillas.

 

Mexican Street Corn Salad

  • 2 cups frozen corn, cooked in the microwave, drained & cooled slightly
  • 2 tablespoons light or fat free mayo
  • juice of half a lime
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 small clove of garlic, pressed
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup diced, red onion
  • 1/4 jalapeño, deseeded & finely diced
  • 1/4 cup reduced fat feta (used in place of traditional, Mexican cotija cheese)
  • salt &pepper to taste

In a small bowl, whisk together mayo, lime juice, garlic, cumin & smoked paprika.
In a separate bowl gently combine corn, cilantro, red onion, jalapeño, and feta.
Add mayo-spice mixture to corn and combine, adding salt & pepper to taste.
Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before serving.

Chipotle Slaw

  • 1 bag traditional coleslaw mix
  • 1/2 cup plain, greek yogurt  (I use 0%)
  • juice of half a lime
  • 1 large clove of garlic, pressed
  • 2  chipotle chiles packed in adobe sauce, finely diced OR 1 1/2 tablespoons chipotle-adobe salsa
  • 1/4 cup diced, red onion
  • 1/4 jalapeño, deseeded & finely diced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • salt to taste

In a large bowl, whisk together greek yogurt, lime juice, chipotles, and garlic.
Add in cabbage mix, red onion, jalapeño, and cilantro.
Stir to combine and salt to taste.
Let marinate in refrigerator at least 30 minutes prior to serving so flavors fully develop.

**Note: The slaw may seem a tad dry prior to refrigerating but the salt allows moisture from the cabbage to be drawn out and a creamier texture will develop before serving.

Avocado Crema

  • 1 small avocado
  • 2 tablespoons plain, greek yogurt (I use 0%)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons red onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
  • 1 small clove of garlic, pressed

In a small bowl, mash the avocado with the back of a spoon until creamy. [A cocktail muddler also works well].
Mix yogurt  and lime juice with mashed avocado then stir in remaining ingredients.
Salt to taste.

Fish Tacos 

  • 2 mahi-mahi fillets
  • 1 chicken breast, butterflied & pounded flat
  • 3-4 teaspoons blackened seasoning
  • 4  corn tortillas (6-inch)
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil

After butterflying & slightly flattening out the chicken breast, sprinkle 1 teaspoon of blackened seasoning on each side.
Do the same for the mahi-mahi (about 1/2 teaspoon per side, per fillet, no needed for pound out the fish though!).

Heat olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat.  Place the chicken & fish in the pan and cook 2-3 minutes per side.

Once cooked, remove from pan and using two forks, shred the chicken and fish into pieces.

Assembling the Tacos:

Prior to serving, warm tortillas on a dry frying pan or in a microwave with a damp cloth [to keep the tortillas from drying out].  Place the shredded chicken or fish in center of the warm tortillas, top with chipotle slaw and a spoonful of avocado cream.  Serve with additional slaw and Mexican Street Corn salad on the side.

And as for that calorie heavy margarita that pairs so well with tacos, may I suggest Skinny Girl Margarita mix with an extra splash of both tequila & lime!